An Ealing west London HMO landlord has been handed a stiff fine totalling nearly £70,000 for failing to licence four HMO properties. The fine followed the issuance of improvement notices and the failure to comply with prohibition orders.

Gunapalan Vamathevan, who also goes under the name of Mr Bala, was the owner and landlord self-manger of four properties: 51 and 53-55 Old Oak Common Lane, and 10 St Andrews Rd in Acton, W3, accumulation fines for nine offences at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 6 August.

Vamathevan was also ordered to pay court costs of £5,395 awarded to the council and a victim surcharge of £120, a total penalty of £75,215.

Councillor Ranjit Dheer, cabinet member for safety, culture and community services, said:

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“This case is a significant result against an unscrupulous landlord who has previously been prosecuted by the council for his disregard of licensing regulations.

“We make every effort to ensure residents in our borough are well protected and have decent living standards. We take a tough line against anyone who deliberately flouts the law and Mr Vamathevan has quite rightly been given a very heavy penalty for his prolonged and intentional illegal behaviour.”

The successful prosecution was brought by Ealing Council’s regulatory services, following an investigation into reports received in 2014 that the properties were being operated as unlicensed houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

A warrant of entry was issued and executed on the three properties in Old Oak Common Lane in June 2014, where council officers found evidence they were being operated as unlicensed HMOs, contrary to Section 72(1) of the Housing Act 2004. They also found serious safety breaches relating to the management of the HMOs.

Notices were then served in relation to the condition of the properties, including prohibition orders under section 20 of the Housing Act 2004 for dangerous staircases, and improvement notices relating to serious hazards.

A later inspection of the property in St Andrews Road in October 2014 also found it to be operating as an unlicensed HMO. A subsequent prohibition order was made for a hazardous staircase and an improvement notice was also served on Vamathevan relating to lack of fire safety in the property.

Numerous HMO licensing application forms along with adequate warning letters were sent to Vamathevan, but no applications were ever submitted for the properties. Also, follow up inspections by officers found that the required works under the improvement notices had not been carried out breaching the prohibition orders.

Ealing Council says it takes a robust approach to such offences and prosecuted Vamathevan for failing to licence the properties as HMOs, failing to manage the properties and failing to comply with the notices served. In February this year he eventually submitted the HMO licence applications, after prosecution for the offences was started.

house in multiple occupation is a property rented out to at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (e.g. a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.

You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of the following apply:

  • it’s rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household
  • it’s at least 3 storeys high
  • tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

Even if your property is smaller and rented to fewer people, you may still need a licence depending on the area. Check with your council.

At the time of writing (24 Aug 15) the classification of what constitutes a licensable HMO is under review and it is likely that smaller HMOs will eventually become licensable.

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